If you were stranded on a desert isle with one lens: the “Nifty Fifty”

on July 29, 2014

After the kit lens, the first lens every shooter should be a 50mm lens- affectionately known as the “Nifty Fifty”. For a full-frame camera, the 50mm gives just a little more punch than the 35mm, which replicates what the eye sees naturally. On an APS-c sized sensor, there’s even more crop, and can give you something closer to an 80mm. This is a great walk around lens/ you’re not too close to your subject to make them uncomfortable, but you definitely can get in there to capture detail. Both nikon and canon offer low cost 50mm lenses, and they are both pretty phenomenal values. If you’ve been shooting with the kit lens, and haven’t really found your groove, slipping on a prime is a great way to really learn about photography. Dedicating yourself to one focal length for a short period of time is a great way to make that first big step up in your photography. The first thing you learn is to zoom with your feet. Getting something larger I. Frame means thinking about your composition and moving the camera, instead of just twisting the barrel. You learn to “work the shot” by seeing all the angles, and you find out how positioning your camera affects the image, including differences in parallax and bokeh depending in how close you are to your subject. The other thing you notice right off the bat is the “speed” of a prime lens. My first camera was a Nikon D40 with a kit lens, and to be quite honest- I was frustrated. Where were all the great shots that I had imagined in my head? It wasn’t until I got a vintage E-series 50mm for $25 at a garage sale that I started to really understand. When I used to try to change the composition with the zoom, I was rarely satisfied with the final product, even though my “frame” was right. Once I was FORCED to think through a fixed lens, I zoomed with my feet to capture the frame, and I was much more pleased with what I was getting. My understanding of the relationships between the objects in 3-D space was what made me understand depth- something that is very crucial to developing different planes of action in a scene. There’s a reason this lens is called the “nifty fifty”; it’s versatility allows it to be used for street photography, documentary work, and even portraits- despite what Scott Kelby claims. Long story short- buy one. They’re cheap, and hold their value well. Start off with a f1.8 and sell it when the time comes to get a f1.4. You’l be hard pressed to find a time when this lens doesn’t live on your cameras.
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Camera Lens